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The Community of Flying

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

As 2014 draws to a close…

As 2014 draws to a close, it gives me an opportunity to review how the club performed compared to our plans for the year.  There were 4 main objectives for the year:

1. Membership marketing and member retention

2. Finding different ways to expand our fleet

3. Setting up the new Safety Office

4. Integrating the Palo Alto Fuel Service (PAFS) into the flying club.

Membership marketing and member retention

Since about 2011, the club really hadn't made any distinct efforts to change or update what we did to market the club.  For 2014, we made several changes to improve our outbound marketing.  We started by overhauling our Google AdWords campaign to better target our likely audience and to link them directly to appropriate pages and not just to our home page.  We also doubled our online advertising budget and got significantly more than double the clicks in return.  Until about March of this year, a good day was 20 clicks and a slow day was 10 clicks.  Since the changes, we have seen as high as 70 clicks per day and a low of around 40 clicks per day.  Additionally, we started a low-cost intro flight program where prospective members get an intro flight for as low as $99 (in a Skycatcher) and we are able to carefully control the entire experience and have had a high conversion rate (70%) from the flights  to becoming members.  Finally, we added a new part-time contract role known as the Member Advisor.  What we found in 2013 is that many new student pilots never make it to solo (80%) and that we needed to more diligently follow-up with each and every student to make sure that their needs are being met and to try and help more if they are not.  It is the job of our Member Advisor to keep these students engaged and moving along.

New Ways to expand our fleet

2013 was a frustrating year for fleet management because we lost a plane for each new one that came along.  We started and ended 2013 at about 40 planes when our goal was about 50 planes.  We made some changes in 2014 to help with recruiting and in particular took the novel step of acquiring our first club plane - an 8KCAB Super Decathlon.   It is not our goal to get into the aircraft ownership business but to simply be the catalyst to enable various planes to come onto our flight line.  We would ultimately like to sell the 8KCAB to a club member who will commit to keeping the plane on the flight line for a period of time.  This would free up some capital to go acquire the next "difficult" plane that the club feels it should have to maintain our diversity.  We will get close to 50 planes (currently 47) this year and continue our plan to get there in the early part of 2015.

Safety Office

By late 2013, we had come to the conclusion that the role of a part-time Chief Pilot wasn't working well for the club and decided to pursue a new strategy.  In February 2014, we launched the new Safety Office managed by Ashley Porath.  We introduced 2 new roles: Standards Officer (Mike May) and Safety Pilot (Don Styles).  The team of three has been very effective at keeping things moving along, especially when one of the team is out of the office.  Checkout paperwork has generally moved through the system more consistently and more quickly.  Exceptions to club rules are handled in a coherent and co-ordinated fashion and any remediations have been processed efficiently and with good effect.  I want to thank the team for their efforts to date and we look forward to continuing with the same team in 2015.

Integrating Palo Alto Fuel Service into WVFC

We started operating the Fuel Service in October 2013.  From the very beginning, it became quite obvious that we could be a whole lot more efficient than the way the service was run in the past.  We quickly went paperless with the fuel team running the entire business from a couple of iPhones and some credit card readers.  The bigger step was to leverage their downtime (i.e. between fuel calls and other quiet times of the day) and utilize their services in various maintenance roles.  The fuel team members are now working on mechanic skills under the supervision of both Jasper and David in Maintenance.  They are able to help with aircraft washes and other tasks in maintenance so that the whole operation can become more efficient and productive.  We look forward to continuing this trend in 2015 as we further integrate the fuel team into our maintenance organization.

So that's the club goals, but we shouldn't forget some of the other achievements too.  Zero insurance claims for the past insurance year!  A huge thanks should go to every member in the club for such an incredible achievement after about 14,000 flight hours.  We added a keypad entry system to the PAO facility, something members had been wanting for a while.   We significantly increased the number of fly-outs thanks to CFI Sue Ballew and all of her efforts.  We continued improving our facilities in Palo Alto, including replacing all of the laptops for member use.  We acquired several new Oxygen tanks, and now have 3 parachutes available for acro work.  We made a multitude of changes to Schedule Master to make it more user-friendly, and replaced our old (and tired) phone system in Palo Alto with a state of the art VoIP virtual PBX system.  Around August of this year, we finally shut down our old server room in Palo Alto and truly became a club "in the cloud".  The list goes on, but I think I have used up all of my space!

Thank you for your continued support and we will work to make 2015 another exciting year for the club and all of its members.  A happy and prosperous holiday season to you and your family.